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Part Two Gender Bias in Academia

When Jody graduated with Ph.D. in 1961, most university history departments were not hiring women and were very open about their wish not to. Jobs were usually obtained through word of mouth, and thankfully, Jody had two prominent historians working on her behalf. Even with their help, she didn’t find a job that year, but was awarded a one-year Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh in 1961. When a position in state history opened up back at LSU the following year, she was hired because they knew she could handle it.  Although temporary initially, it became a tenured post.

Jody has spoken often about the difficulty that existed for women trying to work in academia in the sixties and seventies, claiming that rejection based on someone’s gender is far more devastating than rejection on the basis on one’s record. She credits attending a caucus of women historians at a 1970 Organization of American Historians meeting in Los Angeles with enabling her to confront some of her own past experience with discrimination.

At LSU, Jody edited a journal, taught introductory courses, taught Louisiana history, Western Civilization, and American history. But she was never allowed to develop a class in medical history, even after teaching at LSU for almost seven years. In fact, one of the biggest incentives for her in moving to UNO was the opportunity to develop a course in American public health and medical history.

 

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Part Three Northern Migration

In 1969, Jody was invited to chair a session at the Missouri Valley History Conference in Omaha, where she was informally interviewed for a position at UNO. She didn’t realize that she had been interviewed until a couple of weeks later when someone from UNO’s history department called her in Baton Rouge and asked where her curriculum vitae and application papers were. Excited by the opportunity to pursue teaching medical history and other interests beyond survey courses, she sent in her materials and accepted the position when they offered it to her.

Because she had been on sabbatical when she accepted the job offer at UNO, Jody was required to teach for the fall semester at LSU. This means that she moved up to Nebraska in January of 1970 right after a snow storm. With no snow tires or a good